Confessions of a Cannes Young Lions Finalist 2019

To encourage the next generation of creative stars under 30, Cannes Lions holds an official Young Lions program where the stars go head-to-head. We spoke to Tobi Babalola from MediaReach OMD Nigeria about his experience as a finalist. Watch our video interview with Tobi here.

My expectations were high, yet I did not know what to expect from the festival. As the days drew closer, my google searches on past Cannes Lions intensified. I must confess that no article or video I saw came close to preparing me for the experience that I had ahead of me.

The Competition – We were briefed by the client on the first day of the festival. We had 24hrs to brainstorm and another 11hours to work on the brief. The media competition was exciting, it was evident that all teams were there to put in their absolute best. You could almost hear the heartbeat of enthusiastic competitors. The competition area had an aura of its own. It was an aura that pushed you to do more, to think, think and think again. When teams submitted their works, the collective relief everyone felt was palpable. So much intense work had been done and there was exhaustion on everyone’s faces. The competition ended on the third day of the festival with our various presentations and announcement of the winners. Now it was time to enjoy other parts of the festival.

The Sessions – Mind blowing and insightful are two words that come to mind. Regardless of your chosen interest, there were sessions that catered to everyone. As a curious creative media strategist, I was especially interested in the discussions that touched on creativity and use of data. One that stood out for me was ‘The Banned Ad 1,000,000 People Signed A Petition To See’ facilitated by Hermeti Balarin, Katie Mackay-Sinclair and John Sauve. The team discussed how to emphasize the power of a creative campaign and how many organic impressions campaigns of this kind generate. Although, I do not agree on the existence of an African story, I also really enjoyed ‘The Authentic African Story’ facilitated by Steave Babaeko, Sandra Iyawa, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde and Shukri Toefy. I believe Africans are typically characterized by the uniqueness of their diverse culture and categorizing the whole of Africa under a story just does not do adequate justice to the ‘African Story’.

The Festival of Brands – It was downright impossible to get enough of brands at the Festival of Creativity. From Facebook, Google, YouTube, Pinterest, Activision, Unity, Spotify and IBM to name a few. Apart from the free food and drinks available at the beaches taken up by the brands, there was enough memorabilia to go around all visitors. I got a free customized cup from Unity and IBM put my picture up on the LED screen in front of the Carlton Hotel – this was definitely a highlight of my experience at the festival. I mean, my handsome face on a billboard in France is not something that happens often. I promptly took a picture of it and updated my fans back in Nigeria! There were lots of interesting activitations and discussions at the brand beach hubs as well.

The Parties – While it was serious business at the brand hubs during the day, it was quite the opposite at night. We went from one brand party to another through the night every night. Parties were hosted by Google, Facebook and Spotify amongst others and featured music celebrities like Nas, Ciara, Wyclef and more. Every night was a blast! The festival also ended with a Young Lions closing party.

The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in my opinion should be on the bucket list for every marketing professional. Being at the festival opens your mind to a whole lot of creativity – It’s like lighting a fuse in your brain, bright enough to last a whole year. It was a great experience for me and I hope I have another chance to attend in the future!


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